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Fire brigade warning as over 400 blazes hit 'Dickensian beds in sheds'

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Fire brigade warning as over 400 blazes hit 'Dickensian beds in sheds'

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Health and also in Communities, Legal

Fire brigade warning as over 400 blazes hit 'Dickensian beds in sheds' Fire brigade warning as over 400 blazes hit 'Dickensian beds in sheds'

London Fire Brigade has warned that the problem of so-called 'beds in sheds' is becoming more apparent across the capital - with people living in "scenes reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel".

The brigade's statistics show that over the last five years there have been 438 fires in London involving buildings that should not have been occupied as a place to live - resulting in 13 fire deaths and 69 serious injuries.

Over the same period, the brigade has taken formal enforcement action against landlords under fire safety law around 200 times, where its fire safety officers have found people living in unsafe and unsuitable accommodation.

The lack of built-in fire safety precautions such as safety doors and smoke alarms and the fact that the people living in them rely on far riskier ways of cooking, heating and lighting make 'beds in sheds' potential fire traps, the brigade has warned.

To try and combat the problem, the fire service has launched the UK’s first ‘unsuitable housing’ toolkit, aimed at helping those working in communities across London, including firefighters, council workers, homeless charities and the police, to identify unsuitable accommodation, and those living in it.

Those living in illegal housing are often the most vulnerable people in society.

The brigade’s third officer, Dave Brown, said: “It’s a tragedy that in this day and age we’ve got people living in factories, sheds, and outbuildings in scenes reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel.

“When people are forced to live in these sorts of buildings, they are at a far greater risk of having a fire as the buildings often don’t contain vital safety features like fire doors and alarms, which can be the difference between life and death.

“Starting with our own staff, we are working to educate those who come into contact with unsuitable accommodation and those who live in it to try and prevent further beds in sheds fire tragedies.”

Last summer in Uxbridge, a man died after a fire broke out in the outbuilding he was living in - a unit that had been converted into illegal accommodation.

It’s thought he’d been living in the building, which was at the back of a row of shops, for around six years.

There were no smoke alarms, and due to a broken lock the man was unable to escape from the fire.

In April, a woman was taken to hospital following a fire in a garage under some flats in Wandsworth (pictured). Fire investigators believe the woman was living in the garage and that the fire was caused by a candle falling over whilst she was sleeping.

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